But my weekly catch statistics are down 40%

In an unrecorded conversation at the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Apostle Peter is heard saying, “Jesus Christ is risen, but my 401(k) weekly catch is down 40%, and I don’t know what it’ll be like next quarter.”

That conversation wasn’t recorded, of course, because it never happened. Not with Peter, not at the Sea of Galilee, and not in the 1st century, anyway. But many conversations like it did take place in North America over the past year, with other disciples. And of course they were talking 401(k) accounts, not fishing.

What’s up with that? How is it that we can worry about our 401(k) accounts when our finances are the envy of 90% of the world when our eternal destiny is already secured? (And if you’re reading this, you probably are in the richest 10% of the world’s population)

Well, it’s easy to worry. Some Sunday sermons give the impression that because Christ is risen, anxiety is silly. Uh, hold on a sec, they’re right. But that doesn’t make it easy to stop worrying! As I’ve written before, a biblical command is given when it’s something that doesn’t come to us naturally. In other words, when Paul tells us not to worry about anything (Philippians 4:6), he commands this because worrying is natural and it’s hard to stop it. By the way, the same Paul also wrote 2 Corinthians 11:28, which in the NRSV reads, “And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.” (The NIV reads “concern” there and “Do not be anxious” in Philippians; the King James uses “care” and “careful” respectively — in the original language (i.e., Greek) the passages use basically the same words.)

So it’s easy to do the wrong thing (e.g., worry) even though it’s silly; it’s hard to do the right thing (pray, and be free from concern) even though it’s wise. Besides our natural folly, it’s not entirely stupid (or as I sometimes write at the office, “stooopid”) to consider what to do about a declining 401(k) account. What we must do is find the balance, to be prudent without being anxious — to enjoy God’s good gifts but not to clutch them.

In the run-up to last year’s general elections in the U.S., John Piper wrote that Christians should vote as though they were not — a great explanation of how 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 applies to modern life.

Merton also wrote on this, over a half-century ago.

It gives great glory to God for a person to live in this world using and appreciating the good things of life without care, without anxiety, and without inordinate passion. In order to know and love God through His gifts, we have to use them as if we used them not (I Corinthians 7:31)–and yet we have to use them. For to use things as if we used them not means to use them without selfishness, without fear, without afterthought, and with perfect gratitude and confidence and love of God.

Merton, No Man Is an Island (1955), p.100

Preach it, brother! But such is the issue: use them, enjoy them, be thankful… but without anxiety or fear or selfishness &c.

The good news is: Easter, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, makes it possible for us to actually carry out that command! May we know the incomparably great power for us who believe… like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:18-20). Think of it! Incomparable power to make this possible — like the power that raised Christ from the dead. He did that, so he can certainly do this too. To which I have to say, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Books, contrasts, Jesus, Responsibilities

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